Did you know September is Women in Medicine Month? What an incredible journey women have traveled and accomplishments they’ve made since my MC Eliza graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1901. At that point, less than 5% of all physicians were women.
- In 2017, the percentage of U.S. medical school students hit the 50/50 mark for male and female.
- This year during a global pandemic, we came to know and respect Dr. Deborah Birx, who has stood alongside Dr. Fauci for countless White House briefings in her role as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the WH Task Force. Having a woman of authority and credibility speak to me during those briefings provided a sense of calm amidst the panic.
Standing behind every woman in medicine is the support network of the American Medical Women’s Association (#amwadoctors). “Their mission is to advance women in medicine, advocate for equity, and ensure excellence in health care.” I discovered this group during my research phase while sourcing more material to write about the women doctors who served in France during WWI. One of Eliza’s close friends joins the American Women’s Hospitals to serve as a surgeon. Without any spoilers, she sends an important letter to Eliza from Luzancy, France and I need the descriptions to be accurate and informative.
“Begun in 1915 as the Medical Women’s International Association (MIWA). Overseas war work provided opportunities for professional advancement but women physicians were not allowed to participate in the military medical corps. AMWA formed the War Service Committee, later renamed the American Women’s Hospitals Service (AWHS), to lobby the War Department for military commissions for women physicians and care for civilian war victims.” To commemorate the centennial of the end of WWI, AMWA created an exhibit: American Physicians in WWI which I referenced for my research.
I subsequently reached out to the Association’s Executive Office to source a couple of beta readers for my second round. With no background in medicine, it was imperative I have a woman doctor read my manuscript to address medical scenes, proper language and assess the emotions Eliza may be feeling at certain moments as a woman in medicine. I hit the jackpot when I received a response back from Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH., Executive Director. She would love to read for me, and she also connected me with Mollie Marr who had produced the documentary: At Home and Over There: American Women Physicians in World War I. She would like to read for me as well.
I am extremely grateful to both of them for taking the time from their own busy schedules (Dr. Chin with teaching at UCSF, her own practice and family, and Mollie who is a MD/PhD candidate in Behavioral Neuroscience) to not only read, but to also provide with pages of feedback. I now know the difference between the larynx and pharynx and which is visible without a mirror when looking into a throat. 🙂
Now, for some irony. I’ve just written a 300+ page book about early women doctors, yet, throughout my life, I recall having only one female doctor, a specialist I saw when I was a teenager who was in practice with her husband. My primary care GP has just retired. I think it’s time for a woman doctor – looking for recommendations in the greater Boston area!
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